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Bowel cancer awareness month

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, and an ideal chance to take a look at the nature of bowel cancer, the crucial importance of early diagnosis and the value of screening and genetic testing.

BCUK info

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects the large bowel. It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, despite the fact that it is a treatable and curable cancer, especially when diagnosed early. It is currently the 4th most common cancer in the UK, with over 41,800 people diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. More than 90% of new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, but bowel cancer can affect any age, and 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50 . Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects the large bowel. It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, despite the fact that it is a treatable and curable cancer, especially when diagnosed early. It is currently the 4th most common cancer in the UK, with over 41,200 people diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. More than 90% of new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, but bowel cancer can affect any age, and 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50 . 

The key to treating bowel cancer, as with many cancers, is early diagnosis: this can often mean diagnosis before symptoms have manifested. Screening tests healthy people to identify early signs of cancer that may otherwise go unnoticed. If detected, treatment of cancer at this early stage has the highest chance of success. Currently, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, residents over the age of 60 are eligible for screening on the NHS, while in Scotland this service is available to those over 50 . However, bowel cancer can affect any age group, and the worried well in younger age groups should visit their GP or be screened privately. Check4Cancer’s BowelCheck service includes an individual risk assessment questionnaire, covering family history, symptoms and medical history. Results from this provide users with future screening recommendations (e.g: every year, every 2 years etc). This service is available to men and women aged 45+, enabling earlier diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer.

There is also a genetic component relating to bowel cancer that is less well known to the general public.  Lynch syndrome (LS) is a genetic condition that increases your lifetime risk of bowel cancer to up to 80% and can be causally linked to up to 4% of bowel cancer cases . It causes no symptoms, but significantly increases carriers risk of developing bowel cancer, womb cancer and some other cancers. Genetic testing, available to those age 18 and over through Check4Cancer, can alert people to a higher risk of bowel cancer caused by LS, enabling those who test positive to ensure they are screened for bowel cancer regularly. This increases the chance of early diagnosis and recovery. Immediate family of LS carriers also have a 50% chance of also having the syndrome . Those diagnosed with LS can therefore advise their family to also be tested for LS and, if necessary, for bowel cancer. In this case, knowledge really is power. 

With the prevalence of cancer undoubtedly on the rise, we must be more vigilant than ever to give our family’s, and ourselves, the best chance of treatment and survival. Early diagnosis really can save lives, and screening and genetic testing, such as the services offered by BowelHealthUK can enable this.

BowelCheck
If you want fast, accurate screening for bowel cancer
BowelGene
If you have a family history of bowel cancer
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